Bahrainis stage protests against John Kerry visit

People have held demonstrations across Bahrain to voice their outrage at US Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to the tiny Persian Gulf state. 


Bahrainis poured onto the streets of several areas in the Arab country on Thursday, setting fire to US flags and Kerry’s portraits. 


Prior to Kerry’s visit, Bahraini opposition groups had released a statement, expressing their dissatisfaction with the top US diplomat’s trip. They denounced Washington’s policies as deceptive and hostile. 


Before the visit, Kerry came under fire from human rights groups, who demanded a tougher US stance with regards to the kingdom’s heavy-handed suppression of anti-regime protesters. 


He, however, praised Bahrain for what he called Manama’s push for human rights in the country, glossing over the monarchy’s years-long brutal clampdown on peaceful demonstrators. 


Anti-regime protesters have been holding rallies across Bahrain since mid-February 2011, calling on the ruling family to relinquish power. 


The Al Khalifah regime is engaged in a harsh crackdown on dissent and widespread discrimination against the country’s Shia-majority. Scores of people have been killed and hundreds of others injured or arrested in the kingdom. 


Rights groups have repeatedly blasted Manama for handing down long-term sentences to anti-regime activists. 


Bahrain, a key US ally in the Middle East, hosts the Fifth Fleet of the US Navy.


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